In her November 16th Employee Benefit Adviser article, writer Wendy Keneipp points out that we
all receive a lot of emails, especially unsolicited ones, which itself isn’t necessarily a problem. It’s understandable, she says, that people are trying to develop their businesses. But what is a problem are tactics that some senders use to try to earn new business.
The bar is very low for good communication and, Keneipp says, you should be able to easily rise above the garbage and earn prospect attention by being genuinely interested and helpful. Your prospects may be receiving this kind of communication from your competitors – where the message is all about the sender and what they want. And, if that’s what you are also doing, great!
However, if you are doing any of the following in your emails, stop right now, she says. These are actual examples from emails Keneipp has received.
1) The liars. “We spoke in Q3 last year regarding your group medical rates …” Um, no, we did not. We’ve never spoken, either personally, nor to anyone at your company.
What’s wrong and how you can do better: This sender, from a well-known HR outsourcing company, immediately lost my attention in the first sentence, regardless of personalizing the email with my first name and company name. Don’t just fire off template emails with personalization tokens thinking that people are stupid enough to fall for your story. Think about it, the ones who do fall for it could potentially become your clients!
2) The offended. This person sent a cold email asking us to do something for them, then after getting no response, a week later sent a follow up email. “I chose your company specifically to offer this to and would appreciate a response.”
What’s wrong and how you can do better: Wow. So somehow, I’m now inconveniencing the sender of an unsolicited email by not doing something for them when I don’t know them and I’m not interested in their offer? The recipients of cold emails have zero obligation to you; don’t make them feel like they do.
Now, here’s another example that gets to a similar idea, but made me open it and laugh. Subject line: “Abducted by ninjas?” “Wendy, I've tried contacting you a number of times to no avail. I’m just hoping you haven’t been abducted by ninjas or something! Maybe I should contact Jack Bauer…” She then went on to offer that she was available to talk if I wanted. She has been super-persistent, yet not offensive and always offering to help. I may answer her one day.
3) The LinkedIn seller. This person requested a LinkedIn connection and then immediately started selling agency tax consulting services to our director of marketing, bragging that, “You now have the opportunity to use my knowledge to take your agency to the next level!” And upon getting no response, repeatedly came back saying, “I haven’t heard back from you.”
What’s wrong and how you can do better: First, you should never connect on LinkedIn with the intention of soliciting your new connections. Business is earned. As are disconnects. When the time does feel appropriate to engage connections in a personal dialogue, do your homework on their company and position. Those template emails can do more harm than good if you’re not paying attention and simply prospecting on auto-pilot.
4) The braggart. Inboxes are overstuffed, and when you send worthless emails to prospects, you lessen the chances of them ever looking at another email from you again. Here’s one a friend received from a well-known benefits and technology company. She sent it to me declaring, “This. Is. The. Worst. Marketing. Drivel. Ever.”
“I wanted to share an article with you that was recently published in Forbes about [our company] and our CEO. Of course, it puts us in a favorable light.” He goes on at length in a large block paragraph talking about the company values, and concludes by saying, “I guess after reading it, it just made me feel good about what we do, about being part of the [company] team and so I thought I would share it with you today.”
What’s wrong and how you can do better: The sentiment behind the values was nice, but it had no call to action and just came across as bragging that they got a write-up in Forbes with no direct tie-in to the recipient. The question you need to ask before sending out any piece of PR like this to a prospect’s inbox is, “How does this potentially help my prospects?” If it doesn’t, then it’s probably not appropriate to send as a prospect email.
Find other ways to share that information. You could write an email that is genuinely helpful and include a link to this article as additional information under your signature. Let them find the article and reach their own conclusions rather than you spelling out, “Look at how great we are!”
The bottom line is you have very limited time to get someone’s attention and being obnoxious is not going to drive the type of attention you probably want. If you have sales people on your team, I recommend doing a review of the emails they are sending.
Keneipp also states that you may be surprised at what people consider acceptable. “I’ve seen a lot of things from salespeople at reputable companies that come across as just offensive. Whether it’s due to pressure to make a sale or simply a lack of social graces, rude emails are damaging to your company brand,” she explains. She suggests having a peer review policy in place, especially for any new ideas you want to test because a second set of eyes can keep your brand in check and help develop team collaboration. Win-win!